New York attorney general authorized to investigate Cuomo’s use of state employees to write leadership book

Northeast

ALBANY, N.Y. (NewsNation Now) — New York’s comptroller has asked the state attorney general’s office to launch a potential criminal investigation into whether the governor used state resources to write and promote his book on leadership in the COVID-19 pandemic.

State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office released Monday the April 13 letter, which authorized State Attorney General Letitia James to investigate whether the process of writing and promoting the book violated state laws.

“Allegations have recently emerged that public resources may have been used in the development and promotion of the governor’s book,” DiNapoli wrote in a letter to James dated April 13.

Cuomo and his spokespeople have acknowledged that senior members of his staff helped with the book, but they’ve insisted the work was done on a voluntary basis on their private time.

DiNapoli, an independently elected fiscal officer, asked James to investigate the “alleged commission of any indictable offense or offenses in violation of” laws barring public officials from using state resources for private purposes.

DiNapoli authorized the attorney general to convene a grand jury, if she chose to do so, and prosecute anyone believed to have violated those laws.

James’ office said it received the referral letter from the state comptroller but didn’t comment further.

Recent media reports have raised concerns about staff members who helped Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo with his book, “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic,” released last fall.

Courtesy: Penguin Random House US

His office hasn’t provided direct responses to a list of questions from The Associated Press, including the total number of staffers who helped Cuomo with the book and whether Cuomo received compensation based on how many books were sold.

The governor said Monday that he asked some people who he mentioned in the book to “review” it.

“On the book, some people volunteered to review the book,” Cuomo said in a teleconference call Monday. “You look at the people who are mentioned in the book. I wanted to make sure they were okay with the mention.”

Promotional efforts for Cuomo’s book were halted in March following the state’s nursing home scandal, as well as allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior on behalf of the governor.

A spokesperson for Cuomo, Rich Azzopardi, dismissed the idea of an investigation as a political stunt.

“We have officially jumped the shark,” he said in a statement. “The idea there was criminality involved here is patently absurd on its face and is just the furthering of a political pile-on. Any state official who volunteered to assist on this project did so on his or her own time and without the use of state resources.”

“This is Albany politics at its worst,” he added. “Both the Comptroller and the Attorney General have spoken to people about running for Governor and it is unethical to wield criminal referral authority to further political self-interest‎.”

Azzopardi has said Cuomo’s office made every effort to ensure no state resources were used.

The governor said Monday that he asked some people who he mentioned in the book to “review” it.

“On the book, some people volunteered to review the book,” Cuomo said in a teleconference call with reporters. “You look at the people who are mentioned in the book. I wanted to make sure they were okay with the mention.”

Azzopardi denied that any lower-level aides transcribed parts of the book. “To the extent an aide printed out a document, it appears incidental,” he said.

Azzopardi has also disputed criticism about Cuomo discussing the book in news conferences and media appearances: “An offhand mention about writing a book, or answering questions from the media about it in no way is an advertisement of endorsement of it.”

Cuomo has also repeatedly declined to reveal how much he has made for his book.

The governor, who allows reporters to view personal income tax filings each year, said Monday that he would disclose financial details in those tax documents: “You will see everything you want to see in the personal income taxes.”

Read the letter to AG James

The Associated Press and NewsNation affiliate WROC contributed to this report.

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